Every September, organizations across the country bands together to observe Suicide Prevention Month. The time is taken to highlight suicide prevention measures, while raising awareness regarding deeper mental issues that lie at the root of the problem.
Suicide is not an issue that can be brushed aside. According to the CDC, it sits among the leading causes for death among Americans, every year. In 2022 alone, there were 49,449 reported cases of suicide, which was a 2% increase compared to last year’s figures. Studies also show that suicidal thoughts are experienced across all ages. It sat among the top 9 causes for death for people ages 10 to 14 and 20 to 34 in 2021.
That being said, suicide cases are certainly more common among certain demographics. That same year, the CDC found that the groups of people who experienced higher-than-average suicide rates included veterans, rural populations, members of the LGBT+ community, and workers in industries like construction and mining. The patterns are obvious: discrimination, socioeconomic disadvantages and poor working conditions stressors that can contribute to suicidal thoughts.
Healthcare workers are in particular risk, in this regard. According to UC San Diego Health, nurses have a higher risk of suicide compared to the average person. HCPs are exposed to death, disease, and loss on a constant basis. In addition, they must work in a high pressure work environment where the smallest mistakes can have pronounced consequences. These conditions can foster suicidal thoughts, which has been a long ongoing issue in the industry. “The studies do not reflect a rise in suicide rates,” noted a UC San Diego researcher. “Rather, it points to the fact that nurse suicide has been unaddressed for years,”
What can be done about this problem then? This is a complex question with no easy answer. Referring suicide hotlines, and mental health resources to people in need is a start. Local or national suicide hotlines gives victims someone to talk to, or free and in their time of need. Increasing awareness of the resources available to someone, as well as the stories of victims is what Suicide Prevent on Month aims to achieve. Above everything else, discussion regarding suicidal thoughts must be normalized.
There is a misconception that suicidal thoughts of any kind are a sign of “weakness” that must be hidden in shame. In reality, suicide is a public health issue that affects countless Americans every day. We have to foster an environment of kindness, understanding, and empathy to help those in need. When that is achieved, he people who need help will be more likely to seek it.